Breckenridge Vipers throttle Rock Springs Roughnecks in home opener


In a border war between two Rocky Mountain region teams, the Breckenridge Vipers began the 2023-24 hockey season against Wyoming’s Rock Springs Roughnecks in Breckenridge’s Stephen C. West Ice Arena on Friday, Nov. 17.

With Vipers fans still trickling in through the doors, Breckenridge lined up for its first face off of the season, itching to put on a show and get its first Mountain Hockey League win.

It took the Vipers a few line exchanges to knock off the rust from the off-season, but within two minutes in the game, center Richie Kaye slunk his way through the Roughnecks’ defense and fired a shot into the twine at the back of the net.

The goal electrified the Vipers, and three minutes later Jake Bernstein brought the score to 2-0 off a beauty of a pass from Kaye. 

The Roughnecks reeled for a goal and eventually were successful on a breakaway shot from the stick of defenseman Laim Garcia. 

After three goals in the first five minutes of play, it would make sense to expect play to naturally slow, but the Vipers continued to pursue the net with aggression and were soon awarded with a third goal nearly eight minutes into the match.

Luke Noble was awarded with the goal — the third Vipers player to score for the night.

For a few minutes, play seemed to slow, but then, close to 12 minutes into the contest, the Vipers put two quick goals behind Roughnecks goalie Hunter Tetreault. Bernstein and Mitch Bailey both recorded goals to give the Vipers a 5-1 lead. 

Both teams exchanged penalties to end the opening period but could not execute on the power play.

The Vipers led 5-1 heading into the first intermission, outshooting the Roughnecks 15-4. 

After 20 minutes of neck-breaking, fast-paced play, the two teams settled into the game and began playing at a more moderate pace. 

With more time to catch their breath, the Vipers brought the team’s lead to five goals when Garret Bailey scored right in front of the Roughriders’ net.

It was not long before Bailey fired another shot past Tetreault. A few minutes after his first goal, Vipers captain and owner Rich Batenburg fed Bailey a pass for a goal, which put the Vipers up 7-1.

The Vipers defense continued to play lights out with veteran goaltender JR Engelbert in net, allowing minimal shots on goal and limited offensive zone possession time. 

With an eighth Vipers goal and a hat trick from Bernstein, the Roughnecks pulled Tetreault for Jeff Katz.

Katz made several impressive saves, but the Vipers scored four goals at the tail end of the second period, putting any chance of a Roughnecks comeback out of reach.

With practically everyone on the Vipers’ roster having a mark on the stat sheet, Breckenridge led 12-1 heading into the final period. 

Up by 11 goals, Breckenridge closed out the game by putting on a show and running up the score on its neighbors from the north.

Mike Ivory scored the first goal of the fresh period, sneaking the puck past the Roughriders before scoring an additional goal moments later.

Breckenridge led 14-1 with 13 minutes remaining in the game, while Ivory prowled down the ice for a third straight goal. 

Following a major scrap between multiple players, the Vipers defense successfully killed a five-minute major penalty to keep the lead at 13 goals.

The game concluded with another high-energy tilt and three, Vipers’ goals. With Bailey leading the way with his hat trick, Breckenridge defeated Rock Springs, 17-1.

After leading 6-0 over Rock Springs after the end of the first period, Breckenridge looked confident to secure its second Mountain Hockey League win on the season on Saturday night. The team secured the victory with a final score of 15-1.

Breckenridge will return to the ice on Dec. 1 when it hosts the Vail Yeti at Stephen C. West Ice Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit the Breckenridge Vipers website.